Masters Week Feature: The Ascent of Darla Moore
Originally published in the Augusta Chronicle
Darla Moore might not have as much time as she would like to devote to playing golf, but her enthusiasm for the game has not diminished.
Shortly after it was announced that she and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would become Augusta National Golf Club’s first female members, Moore decided she needed some new clubs. She called on the family of a close friend to help her out.
When the friend’s son and one of his friends arrived at her Lake City, S.C., farmhouse, to deliver the new clubs, Moore didn’t hesitate to try them out.
“She had an event that night, and she came bopping out of the house with these huge curlers in her hair,” friend Karen Fowler said with a laugh. “They hand her the clubs, and she says, ‘Boys, let me show you how it’s done.’ And she wallops it. A perfect shot. She’s just as comfortable as can be.”
That’s hardly the image one would expect from “The Toughest Babe In Business,” the headline that accompanied Moore’s photo when she became the first woman to grace the cover of Fortune.
But friends and colleagues say that is exactly who Moore is. She didn’t rise to become one of Wall Street’s most powerful, and richest, women without being afraid of taking risks.
She demonstrated the same spirit that she showed in trying out her new clubs to make a name for herself in banking. She married financier Richard Rainwater and helped him grow his private investment firm.
Now 58, Moore is giving back, and has been for some time. She has invested or donated about $130 million of her own money into projects that benefit her home state of South Carolina and her hometown of Lake City. It’s a mission she takes as seriously as any business deal she put together in the past.
“She came back home,” said Jim Fields, the executive director of the nonprofit Palmetto Institute. “Thank God for South Carolina.”
The story goes that Moore left South Carolina after graduating from the University of South Carolina in 1975 with $400 and her grandmother’s car.
She spent time working with the National Republican Committee in Washington, thanks to an assist from longtime U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond, and she earned her MBA from George Washington University.
Then she headed for Wall Street, where she landed at Chemical Bank (now JP Morgan Chase).
“Everyone was in LBOs (leveraged buyouts) then, but only the Ivy League, white Protestants got put in that,” Fields said. “She and others were put in bankruptcy (division). She turned into an incredible moneymaking machine for them.”
Before she broke the gender barrier at Augusta National, Moore crashed through it on Wall Street. She rose to become the highest-paid woman in banking, and she became a pioneer of debtor-in-possession financing used in bankruptcy proceedings, according to The Wall Street Journal.
She met Rainwater, a billionaire, and married him in 1991. The founder of Rainwater Inc. was already one of the wealthiest people in the U.S., but Moore nearly tripled his fortune in a short time thanks to her business savvy.
In the mid-1990s, Moore used her position at Rainwater to remove T. Boone Pickens from his oil and gas company, and she also led the ouster of Columbia/HCA’s chief executive officer, Rick Scott. Those moves landed her on the cover of Fortune in 1997.
“I’ve harassed guys all my life,” she said in the magazine interview.
While Moore and Rainwater enjoyed success in the business world, the couple has had to endure a far more difficult fight.
In 2009, doctors diagnosed Rainwater with progressive supranuclear palsy. The disease is a fast-moving, degenerative brain disease that has no treatment or cure, according to Fortune.
Rainwater lives in Texas and receives private nursing care, while Moore makes her base out of Lake City.
Augusta National connection
In the late 1990s, Moore became better acquainted with another University of South Carolina graduate, Hootie Johnson. The two were kindred spirits in more ways than one.
A former football player for the Gamecocks, Johnson had followed his father into the banking business and by the mid-1960s was president of the bank that would come to be known as Bankers Trust.
Johnson helped lead the way in a series of bank mergers, and he eventually became chairman of the executive committee of Bank of America.
Working on the University of South Carolina’s $300 million capital campaign, Johnson convinced Moore to make a sizeable contribution. Her $25 million gift resulted in the business school being renamed the Darla Moore School of Business.
“Hootie will fool you. He is not only a pillar of the establishment, but he also has an ability to see the global picture,” Moore told The Charlotte Observer in 1998. “He can think outside of the box. He actually is quite progressive … Don’t tell anybody I said he was progressive.”
Johnson, an Augusta native, also was a member of Augusta National Golf Club. In 1998, he succeeded Jack Stephens as chairman of the private, all-male club.
Four years later, Johnson became embroiled in a controversy over the club’s membership practices when Martha Burk, the head of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, called for a woman to be admitted.
Johnson’s reply was curt, and it touched off a debate that lasted months.
“There may well come a day when women will be invited to join our membership, but that timetable will be ours and not at the point of a bayonet,” he wrote in 2002.
Because of her friendship with Johnson, Moore was considered a strong candidate to be the first female member at Augusta National. Other women often mentioned included LPGA golfer Nancy Lopez and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
But Johnson and Augusta National held firm, and the issue moved to the back burner until last year. Billy Payne, who took over as chairman from Johnson in 2006, was questioned about why the chief executive officer of IBM, Ginni Rometty, was not a member when past leaders of the company had been invited to join.
Four months later, Augusta National announced Moore and Rice as its first female members.
To no one’s surprise, Johnson personally sponsored Moore.
“This is wonderful news for Augusta National Golf Club, and I could not be more pleased,” Johnson said in a statement released to his hometown paper, The State. “Darla Moore is my good friend, and I know she and Condoleezza Rice will enjoy the club as much as I have.”
Moore is no stranger to the club and knows several members.
“I am fortunate to have many friends who are members at Augusta National, so to be asked to join them as a member represents a very happy and important occasion in my life,” Moore said in a statement. “Above all, Augusta National and the Masters Tournament have always stood for excellence, and that is what is so important to me. I am extremely grateful for this privilege.”
Return to roots
In the early 2000s, Moore decided it was time to return home. She moved back to Lake City and took over the farmhouse that had been in her family for generations.
Lake City has a population of close to 7,000 and is about halfway between Columbia, the capital, and tourist destination Myrtle Beach.
Through the years Lake City had relied on an agriculture-based economy, including tobacco, beans and strawberries.
Moore saw an opportunity to invest in the small town and reverse the population drain that occurred when young people left for college or work and didn’t return.
Greg Moore – no relation – has seen first-hand Moore’s impact during his time as the president of the Lake City Chamber of Commerce.
“I’ll tell you the best thing about her, and it’s not her intelligence or her money, and those are two fantastic traits,” he said. “The most wonderful thing about her is her ability to inspire others, to galvanize a group of individuals to work toward a common goal.”
He points to the dozens of major construction projects going on in the area, the boutique hotel being constructed in the heart of the city, and the upcoming art festival that is hoped to be a major tourist draw.
“It’s all based on her inspiration,” he said. “Every town needs a Darla.”
Fields, the executive director of the Palmetto Institute, says Moore is trying to improve South Carolina’s economy and education system through a handful of nonprofit groups.
“Every day is important to her. And that’s what she wakes up every day wanting to do,” Fields said. “Everyone around her understands that. It’s daunting, but it is truly exciting. She believes philanthrophy gifts are truly investments. Like in the private sector, she expects a return. She wants things to be transformed. Most folks want your money and then they see you go. Not Darla.”
Moore’s touch can be seen all over Lake City, from a renovated bean market to the botanical gardens that bear her family name.
Up next is ArtFields, a 10-day art festival that is being described as an “epic Southern artfest competition and celebration.” The competition features a top prize of $50,000 and two other prizes of $25,000 each.
The event has already exceeded expectations with hundreds of entries, and thousands of tourists are expected to descend on Lake City later this month.
“Through the last 10 years I have seen that her thought process is uncanny,” said Fowler, her friend who is spearheading ArtFields. “Her ideas are incredible. When she wants to do something, she does it. There is no thinking about it or contemplating. She puts her ideas on paper and they happen.”
Locals won’t be surprised if Moore is in the middle of the art festival, rubbing elbows with everyone. She isn’t shy about mixing and mingling anywhere in the small town.
Fields recalls the first time he met her.
“We were working and she said, ‘Are you hungry?’ I said I was starving,” Fields said. “We went to Allison’s Truck Stop and had chicken gizzards. … Right then I knew she appreciated her roots.”
Moore the golfer
While fellow Augusta National newcomer Rice has been active on the golf scene the past few years, showing up at tournaments and even competing in this year’s Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, very little is known about Moore’s game.
A natural athlete – her father, Eugene, played baseball and football at Clemson and went on to become a respected coach – Moore didn’t take up golf seriously until she married Rainwater.
Friends and colleagues agree that she has the ability to become a better player. Fowler’s husband, Marion, who was an All-American at Francis Marion University, has offered some pointers.
“She was truly honored to be asked to join Augusta,” Fields said. “She used to be a good golfer and still has all the attributes. She doesn’t have the time to put into it. I’ve seen her hit some doggone good shots.”
Moore, the chamber of commerce president, agreed.
“I would not say she is an avid golfer, but I’ve been told her game is above average,” he said. “She is absolutely competitive.”
Moore is expected to be at the Masters this week – she and Rice are both listed on the tournament’s special assignments committee – but it is unclear how much time she will spend in Augusta.
“She’ll be there and playing her role and doing things they desire,” Fields said. “She takes her membership seriously.
“She’s played with a couple of foursomes over there already. Probably doesn’t come as often as she’d like, but she has a number of friends from all over the country.”
Before the news broke last summer, Moore told her inner circle. Then she left for a trip to Nairobi.
The news was met in Lake City with a mixture of civic pride and wonderment.
“It’s another feather in her cap and another reason for us to be extremely proud of her. Her being one of the first two speaks of her character and accomplishments,” Greg Moore said. “But I am not good enough friends of her to get a tee time.”
Darla Moore, '75, Selected As One of the First Two Women to Join Augusta National
Originally published on thestate.com
For the first time in its 80-year history, Augusta National Golf Club has female members.
The home of the Masters, under increasing criticism the last decade because of its all-male membership, invited former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore to become the first women in green jackets when the club opens for a new season in October.
Both women accepted.
"This is a joyous occasion," Augusta National chairman Billy Payne said Monday.
The move likely ends a debate that intensified in 2002 when Martha Burk of the National Council of Women's Organizations urged the club to include women among its members. Former club chairman Hootie Johnson stood his ground, even at the cost of losing Masters television sponsors for two years, when he famously said Augusta National might one day have a woman in a green jacket, "but not at the point of a bayonet."
The comment took on a life of its own, becoming either a slogan of the club's resolve not to give in to public pressure or a sign of its sexism, depending on which side of the debate was interpreting it.
"Oh my God. We won," Burk said. "It's about 10 years too late for the boys to come into the 20th century, never mind the 21st century. But it's a milestone for women in business."
Payne, who took over as chairman in 2006 when Johnson retired, said consideration for new members is deliberate and private, and that Rice and Moore were not treated differently from other new members. Even so, he took the rare step of announcing two of the latest members to join because of the historical significance.
"These accomplished women share our passion for the game of golf and both are well known and respected by our membership," Payne said in a statement. "It will be a proud moment when we present Condoleezza and Darla their green jackets when the club opens this fall. This is a significant and positive time in our club's history and, on behalf of our membership, I wanted to take this opportunity to welcome them and all of our new members into the Augusta National family."
A person with knowledge of club operations said Rice and Moore first were considered as members five years ago. That would be four years after the 2003 Masters, when Burk's protest in a grass lot down the street from the club attracted only about 30 supporters, and one year after Payne became chairman.
Moore and Johnson are close friends, both with roots in South Carolina and banking, and the person said Payne and Johnson agreed on the timing of a female member. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the club typically does not discuss membership issues, said it was important to Payne to be respectful of the membership process. The person said prospective members often are not aware they are being considered.
Burk maintains her initial letter to Johnson on June 12, 2002 - and his defiant reply - paved the way for Rice and Moore to become members a decade later.
"It came sooner than I expected. I thought they were going to try to outlast me," Burk said. "And I really thought they would wait until the women's movement would get no credit. But if we had not done what we did, this would not have happened now."
Augusta National, which opened in December 1932 and did not have a black member until 1990, is believed to have about 300 members. While the club until now had no female members, women were allowed to play the golf course as guests, including on the Sunday before the Masters week began in April.
The issue of female membership never went away, however, and it resurfaced again this year after Virginia Rometty was appointed chief executive of IBM, one of the Masters' corporate sponsors. The previous four CEOs of Big Blue had all been Augusta National members, leading to speculation that the club would break at least one tradition - membership for the top executive of IBM or a men-only club.
Rometty was seen at the Masters on the final day wearing a pink jacket, not a green one. She was not announced as one of the newest members.
Moore, 58, first rose to prominence in the 1980s with Chemical Bank, where she became the highest-paid woman in the banking industry. She is vice president of Rainwater, Inc., a private investment company founded by her husband, Richard Rainwater, and she was the first woman to be profiled on the cover of Fortune Magazine.
In 1998, Moore made an initial $25 million contribution to her alma mater, the University of South Carolina, which renamed its business school after her. She pledged an additional $45 million to the school in 2004. And last year, she pledged $5 million to the college for a new aerospace center. She also pledged $10 million to Clemson University in her father's name.
Moore was mentioned as a possible Augusta National member during the height of the all-male membership debate in 2002. She and Johnson worked on South Carolina's $300 million capital campaign in the late 1990s.
"Augusta National has always captured my imagination, and is one of the most magically beautiful places anywhere in the world, as everyone gets to see during the Masters each April," Moore said. "I am fortunate to have many friends who are members at Augusta National, so to be asked to join them as a member represents a very happy and important occasion in my life.
"Above all, Augusta National and the Masters Tournaments have always stood for excellence, and that is what is so important to me."
Rice, 57, was the national security adviser under former President George W. Bush and became secretary of state in his second term. The first black woman to be a Stanford provost in 1993, she now is a professor of political economy at Stanford's Graduate School of Business.
"I have visited Augusta National on several occasions and look forward to playing golf, renewing friendships and forming new ones through this very special opportunity," Rice said in a statement released by the club. "I have long admired the important role Augusta National has played in the traditions and history of golf. I also have an immense respect for the Masters Tournament and its commitment to grow the game of golf, particularly with youth, here in the United States and throughout the world."
Rice recently was appointed to the U.S. Golf Association's nominating committee.
Johnson regarded the membership debate as infringing on the rights of a private club, even though every April it hosts the Masters, the most popular of the four major championships, which brings in millions of dollars through television rights for the highest-rated telecast in golf.
In a 2002 interview with The Associated Press, Johnson said the makeup of the club was more about four members-only parties each year than who plays the course.
"Our club has enjoyed a camaraderie and a closeness that's served us well for so long, that it makes it difficult for us to consider change," he said. "A woman may be a member of this club one day, but that is out in the future."
The membership issue might now shift across the Atlantic to the British Open, which returns in 2013 to all-male Muirfield Golf Club.